Do you think technology is something that should be ubiquitous in schools? The Peel District School Board thinks so – which is why it introduced cloud technology and a BYOD initiative to its classrooms at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.
Outside the classroom, technology is everywhere, yet it has not achieved the same rate of adoption in school environments. Some educators are beginning to believe that this is a problem – since technology is an integral part of our personal and professional lives, it only makes sense to introduce it into classrooms, where children spend a significant chunk of their time.
“Having technology in the clasroom is pivotal,” said Mark Keating, CIO of the Peel District School Board. “It’s pivotal to engage students and to support 21st-century teaching and learning.”
Keating said the school board decided to launch the initiative to help students prepare for the high-tech jobs of the future. It allows students to bring mobile devices – including phones – into the classroom for use as a teaching aid.
Using Microsoft Office 365 as the platform for the initiative, Keating and his colleagues tackled the board’s primary challenges: the need to keep students engaged and interested in their schoolwork, and to find an innovative way to bring the classroom into the modern age.
“If you look at 1903 to 2003, the classroom really didn’t change that much: students sitting in seats, looking at the chalkboard, the teacher at the front of the classroom,” said Keating. “But what’s happening outside of the classroom is a completely different experience – people are tweeting, people are chatting, they’re moving at 1,000 miles a second. But they come into the classroom, and there’s a person at the front, teaching in a very standard way. But with Office 365, we’re bringing all those social elements into the classroom and we’re engaging students.”
Since its inception, Keating and his colleagues have seen changes in the learning environment of their schools: “We see students helping students. Teachers can help other teachers, teachers can help students, students are helping students. So it’s a really socially-immersive environment.”
Some might argue that tablets in the classroom are more of a hindrance than a help; there are, after all, a proliferation of stories about cell phone confiscation by frustrated teachers. But Keating disagrees with this mindset. He believes that technology is the best way for students to obtain the information they seek.
“A vast amount of information lies outside the classroom. I think technology is the conduit to access that information,” he said. “So if you don’t have technology in the classroom, you’re doing students a disservice. You need to be able to access the information that’s outside those four walls. It doesn’t replace good teaching, but it enhances it.”